Wednesday, September 19, 2007

When is a "vow" a "threat"?

And speaking of tiny disconnects in the media, how about this one? The teaser headline reads
Iran draws up plans to bomb Israel (AP)
but when you get to the page, the headline there reads
Iranian: Retaliation if Israel attacks
The story (by Ali Akbar Dareini of the AP) begins
The deputy commander of Iran's air force said Wednesday that plans have been drawn up to bomb Israel if the Jewish state attacks Iran, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.

The announcement came amid rising tensions in the region with the United States calling for a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program and Israeli planes having recently overflown, and perhaps even attacked, Iranian ally Syria.
The nerve of those guys. Saying they'll fight back. Really - I mean, how dare they?

The White House certainly bridled at it.

White House press secretary Dana Perino called Alavi's comment "unhelpful."

"It is not constructive and it almost seems provocative," she said. "Israel doesn't seek a war with its neighbors. And we all are seeking, under the U.N. Security Council resolutions, for Iran to comply with its obligations."

Of course, Iran says it is, and the recent unpleasantness that erupted when we insisted that Iraq "comply with its obligations" and Iraq said that it was, and we said that it wasn't and invaded, and then found out that, gosh, yes, I guess it was, can't be helping the situation.

Nor can labeling "plans drawn up to bomb Israel if the Jewish state attacks" as simple "plans to bomb Israel". There's a reason witnesses are told to tell "the whole truth", guys.

Nor can using scare words like "threaten" and "boast" when quoting Iranians (but not Israelis).

Iran has threatened in the past that Israel would be Iran's first retaliatory target if attacked by the United States. But Alavi's comments were the first word of specific contingency plans for striking back on Israel.

Many in the region fear Israel could launch airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon.

Alavi also warned that Israel was within Iran's medium-range missiles and its fighter bombers, while maintaining that Israel was not strong enough to launch an aerial attack against Iran.

"The whole territory of this regime is within the range of our missiles. Moreover, we can attack their territory with our fighter bombers as a response to any attack," the general said.

An upgraded version of Iran's Shahab-3 missile has a range of 1,200 miles, capable of reaching Israel and carrying a nuclear warhead.

Alavi said Iran's radar bases were monitoring activities at the country's borders around the clock and boasted that it had the capability to confront U.S. cruise missiles.

"One of the issues enemies make publicity about is their cruise missiles. Now, we possess the necessary systems to confront them (the cruise missiles)," Alavi was quoted as saying.

Look. We all know why Israel bombed Syria. Let's start by dismissing the fantasies (Syria's developing nukes? Syria and Iran are working together to develop nukes? Syria's hiding North Korea's nukes for them?) and looking at geopolitical reality.

Simon Tisdall summed it up nicely in the Guardian:
Among the less convoluted explanations for Israel's action - that it was testing Syria's new Russian-made air defences, that it was intent on destroying terrorist training camps, or (as Syria claims) it was trying to destroy the peace process - the suggestion that the target was Iranian missiles and other arms stores bound for Hizbullah in Lebanon rings most true.

Iran says it offers only moral and financial support to its Shia allies. But there are persistent, credible reports predating the Lebanon summer war of Iranian weapons supplies transiting Syria via northern Iraq (and occasionally intercepted by anti-Iranian Kurdish guerrillas).

Government opponents in Tehran also say they believe some missiles fired into Israel by Hizbullah last year were obtained via the Syrian route - and that Tehran's action in supplying arms to proxy forces in Lebanon fits a pattern in evidence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But while cutting Hizbullah's lifelines and reasserting its regional deterrence capabilities after last summer's humiliations may have been Israel's aim, its dramatic action - and its unusual silence since - suggests another purpose. The raid represented a deadly serious, silent message of intent - literally, a warning shot - to Tehran, fired with Washington's evident, equally tacit approval.

Stories about Korean-made nukes secreted in Arabian wastes will sound like fairytales to many. The real-time targets are, potentially, Iran's nuclear, military and command facilities. And Israel, no longer content with trial runs up and down the Mediterranean, just demonstrated how easily it could hit them.
And Iran wants Israel to know they'll hit back.

Sure, we don't like it when the Bad Guys say they'll hit back. But is that really a "threat"?

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